Nova Scotia

Fire stations set up water stations as wells in southwest N.S. dry up

Municipal leaders in southwest Nova Scotia are hoping for rain this week as wells in the area start to dry up one by one.

Municipal leaders hoping for 'weeks of rain' as private water supplies dwindle

A file photo of a dry well taken in the Municipality of the District of Barrington in 2016. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

Municipal leaders in southwest Nova Scotia are hoping for rain as wells in the area dry up one by one, evoking memories of a drought two summers ago that left at least 1,000 families without water.

Mayor Karen Mattatall of Shelburne said anyone in her community with a dry well can stop by the local fire department to fill up containers with water.

There is also a water station set up at the guild hall on the Shelburne waterfront.

"Interestingly, we had less rainfall this summer than we had during the 2016 drought," said Mattatall. "However, people are experiencing low wells and we're just starting to hear about dry wells."

Time for well survey

A 2016 drought in southwest Nova Scotia forced some homeowners to excavate deeper wells and shower at public facilities.

Yarmouth County reported the driest summer on record that year going back as far as 1880.

Mattatall said her municipality hasn't done a survey of wells like they did two years ago, but she's thinking it might be time.

In the meantime, the mayor is asking people who turn to the town's water supply to be cautious.

"If you need the water, come and get it," she said. "But take what you need because we do have to monitor our water source as well."

Repeat of 2016?

Some 35 kilometres away in Barrington, fire services co-ordinator David Kendrick said he worries what could happen in the coming days if there's no relief.

"I don't think it's anywhere near as bad as it was in 2016," he said. "But I think it's headed in that direction."

Kendrick said he's discovered that anyone whose well went dry in 2016 is dealing with the same problem this year.

The municipality will deliver water to anyone who has a proper container, he said.

Rain in forecast

A low-pressure system is expected to bring rain to the southernmost parts of Yarmouth and Shelburne counties late Tuesday. But not everyone is convinced it will be enough.

"We need weeks of rain," said Janine Muise, co-ordinator for the Argyle Emergency Management Organization. "The 40 to 50 millimetres of rain in the forecast is going to help, but it's not going to solve the problem."

Wells are drying up every day but Murse said neighbours are pitching in to help out.

"We are country people," she said. "And people help each other so people with wells that still have water are sharing with others."

People helping out

Local schools are opening at certain hours of the day for people to come in and take a shower, while home care workers are delivering water on their daily rounds.

The provincial Emergency Management Office is filling a flatbed with 40 pallets of bottled water.

It's expected to leave Halifax on Tuesday morning and make stops in Shelburne, Barrington, Yarmouth and Argyle.

Muise said the province will continue supplying bottles of water as long as needed.

About the Author

Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.